Whether you've been suffering with your pain for weeks, months, years or even DECADES! There's no need to fear.. You are not alone!
Let me throw out a few stats:
I'm sure you knew that you weren't the only one in the world suffering with back pain but now you know how it's becoming a bit of an epidemic.
Whether you suffered your injury from saving a child from a burning building or perhaps just sitting at your desk working on your computer.. back pain can literally be a pain in the butt.. *ahem* I'm talking about Sciatica that stems from your back of course ;)
If you read my last blog post regarding The Real Reason You Can't Get Rid Of Your Pain then you know that there can be a number of reasons behind the cause of your pain. And without doing a thorough assessment (and no that doesn't have to involve x-rays and MRIs.. they really aren't needed as often as you think) it can be difficult to diagnose.
In my practice, I have noticed that the majority of patients are lumped into a particular category and that I have found several exercises beneficial. However, I recommend you see a Doctor of Physical Therapy in your area if your back pain persists.
Be mindful of how you're sitting.
That doesn't mean you have to have perfect posture! That just means stop sitting like a slouch!! Sit up tall.. this is can also increase your alertness.. hellloo Monday morning!
Keep your feet flat on the floor and your bottom all the way to the back of the seat. You can roll up a towel from home and put it in the small of your back to promote good posture (you can also purchase a lumbar support roll here).
Make sure your computer is at eye level. So that means, sit tall and then adjust the height.. it might be at "eye level" when you're slumped over but that doesn't help much does it?
And remember.. don't worry about sitting perfectly. Just be more mindful of your positioning throughout the day and you'll be surprised at how much it will help! Although if you suffer with very poor posture then you may be sore from sitting upright.. don't worry, that goes away!
Get up every hour.
One quick an easy way of doing this is drink PLENTY of water. This will force you to get up every hour to go to the restroom so you won't forget.
Another way is setting a timer for every hour. If you're like me, I tend to get consumed in my work and don't realize how much time has passed and realize it's been 4 hours!
By that time it's going to take A LOT of work to undo the pressure that's been placed on your back. Just think.. you were sitting with poor posture for 4+ hours.. what makes you think that you'll fix it with just one exercise?
However, with daily modifications and changes to your life you will gradually start noticing a difference. It might not be right away but it WILL happen!
Do the opposite motion than you're used to.
If your job requires you to sit all day or lift objects (or kiddos) off the floor then that shows you're primarily in flexion and need to work on extension.
If you're a gymnast, pole vaulter, crossfitter or any other type of athlete then you will probably benefit from more flexion.
But not always!
I've seen many crossfitters who work out 5+ days a week present with low back pain. After going through their history I find a lot of similarities to my other patients who don't do crossfit on the regular..
They sit majority of the day for work.. They're at home with their kiddos picking up toys, changing diapers and wrangling kiddos all day.. They're a massage therapist or personal trainer working with clients and helping them stretch.
All of these show more of a flexion-based lifestyle.
Flexion = bending forward at the low back (see pictures above)
Extension = bending backward at the low back (see pictures above)
You can see how day-to-day activities typically involve more flexion than extension.
If your daily activities involve a lot of flexion then try doing the opposite.. whatever that may be! Listen to your body and see if what you're feeling is painful or more of a stretch.
And for those with bulging and herniated discs.. be very careful! Usually extension based exercises are helpful such as the cobra (see pic below) but sometimes it requires more than that. That's when you need to find a local Physical Therapist to help you find out what the best positioning is for you.. otherwise, you'll be next up on the chopping block.. literally.
Go for a walk!
After work, take some time for yourself and go for a peaceful walk. Take in your surroundings and decompress from the day.
And if you're sitting all day, walking will promote more extension of the low back and should help take pressure off those segments that have been compressed all day while sitting.
It will also help decrease stress levels which will help you relax and sleep better. Sleep is paramount in the recovery process!
And don't forget about those endorphins! They'll make you feel good and give you energy to tackle the rest of the day.
However, be careful not to walk up too many hills.
Walking on an incline can place excess stress on your back and puts your low back into a flexed position. If that's the position you typically stay in all day then no need to add more time in that position!
This is a difficult topic to tackle - *cough* elephant in the room *cough*..
Losing weight can be the difference between living an active and enjoyable lifestyle versus undergoing multiple surgeries and taking pain medication for the rest of your life.
Now if you have 5-10 lbs or even 20 lbs to lose.. you would probably benefit more from Tips #1-4.
But if you have 30+ lbs to lose then that's another story.
Now I love people of all shapes and sizes, but if you want to get pain-free and achieve an optimal outcome then you might want to assess what you're eating.
That doesn't mean to calorie count or go on a crazy and restrictive diet.. To me, that's just as bad because once you go off the diet things typically will go right back to the way they were but now you are filled with guilt and shame.
Instead of a restrictive diet, think about building a sustainable eating plan that consists of ALL food groups.. even the "unhealthy" ones. The only difference is eating in moderation, moving more, and listening to your hunger cues.
I recommend going to the grocery store and looking for whole foods.. Foods that come from the earth and are not processed. Stay on the outside of the grocery and don't go to the middle aisles.. usually that's where they store the processed food such as cookies, crackers and other pre-packaged food.
One easy way of navigating the grocery store is by looking at the ingredients and choosing items with 5 ingredients or less!
I can go on and on about this.. but I'll save that for another post.
The main thing I want you to get from this is that...
There is still hope.. LOTS OF IT!!
So don't give up just yet! And it's okay to disagree with your physician.. you don't always have to have pain medications, injections or surgery. There are alternatives!
And I cannot stress this enough to you.. seek out the best Physical Therapist in your town. A true musculoskeletal specialist that can perform a comprehensive assessment to determine the true underlying cause of your pain!
And if you haven't read my previous post.. check it out here. It will tell you more about why you may be having difficulty getting rid of your pain!
If you're local to the Nashville area, I provide FREE Discovery Visits and Phone Consultations. I would love to talk with you and explain how I can specifically help YOU and YOUR pain.
I also offer Money-Back Guaranteed after 2-4 sessions if you're not completely satisfied with the results. I 100% believe in what I do. I have seen people's lives transformed by making minor modifications to their daily routine. You will be surprised what the body can overcome if you are able to address the real reason behind the pain.
And please subscribe to my newsletter to get email reminders for my upcoming posts! I'll also send you my FREE Back Pain Guide!
I would also love to hear any questions that you may have! Please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below!
Dr. Katie Spruell, PT, DPT, CSCS
KS Fitness + Co, LLC
Dr. Katie Spruell, PT, DPT, CSCS
I am a licensed Physical Therapist and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist practicing in Nashville, TN. I started a small private practice - KS Fitness + Co, LLC - in April 2018.